It’s essential that great policies are not just created but also effectively articulated to those who must execute them. Policy implementation means putting theory into practice, wherein many logistic and technical complications can arise. This has happened in the case of teacher evaluation and accountability policies. Addressing these implementation issues is critical to education reform; as a result, the education reform organizations ConnCAN, 50Can, and Public Impact address questions and obstacles that arise in teacher evaluation in their May 2012 report, “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look ‘Under the Hood’ of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites”.

While many school districts have stuck with the same ambiguous methods of teacher evaluations, the report examines ten sites that include states, school districts, a charter school network, and a graduate school program (Delaware; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Hillsborough County, FL; Houston, TX; New Haven, CT; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; Achievement First; and the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City). These institutions are all trying more rigorous, comprehensive approach to teacher evaluations; therefore, the report specifically focuses on their evaluation practices.

The authors consider the ways to measure student achievement and the value of nonacademic measures, like student perception and personal growth. For example, applying value-added measures for only math and science creates a problem for evaluating non-math and science teachers. Delaware is making use of multiple measures: state-defined metrics, approved internal school metrics, and growth goal measures. This combination of measures can compensate one assessment’s strength with another’s weakness. Achievement First, a charter network of twenty schools, uses lower weights for test performance in ungraded subjects, but includes student character development and quality instruction input in its evaluations. These are only a few strategies being used, in what the authors suggest are not perfect systems, but ones that show the way forward. 

Readers probably won’t find an end-all be-all solution to teacher evaluation in this report. What you will find is a starting place—to brainstorm which methods best fit your objectives. We can learn a lot from these innovators. After all, an abstract idea isn’t much to the world, but when it is put into action it has potential, and that’s a start. 

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look “Under the Hood” of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites
By Daniela Doyle and Jiye Grace Han
ConnCAN, 50Can, and Public Impact
March 2012

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